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SXSW 2020

Alienating Mars: Challenges of Space Colonization

Human bodies are optimized for life on Earth, and ill-equipped for environments like those we will encounter on Mars. But here at home there are organisms that thrive in the extremes: the coldest, hottest, driest, and saltiest places. As technologies like CRISPR enable us to manipulate our genes, there may be adaptive tools we can borrow from these extremophiles. But while we are absorbed in self-preservation, it will be easy to neglect the planet we hope to colonize. After all, humans do not have the best track record when it comes to ethical exploration. While there is no evidence for life on Mars—yet—there is still the matter of an entire land that has no one to speak for it, or to defend it. So in the process of getting humans to Mars, what values may be compromised along the way?

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  1. What challenges humans (and life) will encounter in Mars colonization, and how we can use genetic tools like CRISPR to bioengineer solutions.
  2. What genetic traits we can borrow from extremophiles—organisms that thrive in hostile environments on Earth—that will help us to survive in space.
  3. Humanity does not have the best track record when it comes to colonizing new lands—is it possible to colonize Mars in an ethical way?



Brooke Grindlinger, Chief Scientific Officer, Scientific Programs & Awards, The New York Academy of Sciences

Meta Information:

  • Event: SXSW
  • Format: Panel
  • Track: Fantastic Future
  • Track 2
  • Level: Beginner
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